Michael Nason – Outreach Team Lead

Hi, my name is Michael Nason. I am a team lead for Be The Change YYC, running one of the 3 weekly outreaches. I have been volunteering for as long as I can remember, from working soup kitchens with my mother as a young boy to salvation army collection to recently Calgary reads book delivery and volunteer design work. I have been finding the joy in helping others for as long as I can remember. I was able to get that opportunity once more with Be The Change. I was on a bike ride when I came across Be The Change wagon being pulled by Chaz Smith. I instantly became very familiar with the organization. I joined up became a regular member, working regular shifts many times per week I gained valuable experience, Implementing theory and practice I eventually moved up to team lead as time had went on.

Wanted to put in my part to remove these stigmas

When it comes to homelessness, I always felt like there was a problem that I could help solve. It has always broke my heart hearing from people in my social circles and employment field talk about homeless members of our community in dehumanizing manners and referring to mental health, or substance addiction as either an unstoppable process or a fault of the individual. I always believed in the power of the community to change and have wanted to put in my part to remove these stigmas and contribute to a better life for those in need. It is part of my makeup to care.

Shelter is a baseline need akin to food, and water

I am an advocate for housing first because I personally believe housing is a human right. We have the resources to house the population experiencing homelessness and have very little excuse not too aside from antiquated ideas of shelter being a luxury bought through capital. We live in a time of abundance and should be able to give all necessities of life to our population. Shelter is a baseline need akin to food, and water. It should not be held to any higher regard than other necessities. The ability for clients to become functional members of society is nearly unachievable without all of their necessities first met.

Ultimately we want people to seek treatment

I am an advocate for harm reduction because of it’s ability to remove stigma around hard drug use. Keeping injection and smoking of hard drugs a taboo topic doesn’t decrease usage, it simply alienates its users and makes their acknowledgement and handling of the issue much more difficult. Harm reduction gives us as outreach workers the ability to become familiar with the culture of hard substances and help our clients remove themselves from it. It helps the clients too by education of substance use to the general public, as well as be the change staff while also giving them the ability to (hopefully with diminishing returns) use safely. Ultimately we want people to seek treatment but we must first meet them where they are at.

I will always enjoy the small moments between clients and I

I will always enjoy the small moments between clients and I. Being able to connect with people in such a harrowing spot in life and give them the feeling of being recognized and heard is such a powerful feeling. Specifically when there’s a regular client and you and the client recognize each other by name really makes a change in my opinion. It makes the clients know that someone out there cares. In the future I hope to continue expanding my knowledge and education surround this field of work. As someone who has already graduated from post secondary, I consider returning to advance my skills set and knowledge base to better serve in this field of work.